Judge laments rising anti-Chinese crimes
A Justice of the Supreme Court, Tafaoimalo Tologata Tuala-Warren, has expressed her dismay about an apparent wave of crime targeting Samoa’s Chinese community.
Justice Tuala-Warren's concerns were outlined when she sentenced Ieremia Joseph Pilitati, who was convicted of aggravated robbery in connection to the assault of a Chinese passerby. According to a Police summary of facts tendered in Court, the incident occurred on 30 March 2019, when the victim took a walk on the road at Leufisa.
In front of a church in Leufisa, the defendant, who was intoxicated, was standing on the road with his co-defendant, Periti Apelu, when they approached the victim.
“The defendant, Ieremia, picked up a rock from the other side of the road whilst the co-defendant was intimidating the victim,” the Court was told.
The Police report says that Ieremia struck the victim on the head with a rock, knocking him unconscious. Ieremia and his co-defendant both kicked the victim as he lay unconscious, the Court heard.
“Ieremia stole the victim’s pair of shoes while the co-defendant stole the victim’s cell phone and then both left the scene,” the Police report said.
During sentencing, Justice Tuala-Warren said the defendant targeted the victim on a racial basis.
“I believed they targeted Chinese victim because of his race,” said Justice Tuala-Warren.
“This was unprovoked and this is an aggravating factor.”
The defendant was sentenced to one year and five months.
This is not the first time Justice Tuala-Warren has raised the issue of racist crimes against Chinese people in Samoa.
Last August, she sentenced Gogosina Lelei Leilua, of Vaiusu and Elise, who fatally stabbed a Chinese man in the back up to ten times during a botched armed robbery last year. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Justice Tuala-Warren at the time highlighted the issue of racism against the Chinese community in Samoa as a relevant factor in the case.
“In the affidavit of Jia Lin Shen, 63 years old, dated 14 January 2020, he says that he feels the Chinese are being targeted and he feels that they are vulnerable and can be attacked any time of the night,” the Judge said.
“I read this with a heavy heart. Our country should be careful lest we become a country with hostility towards a group of persons who have race in common.
“This will lead to crime born of that hostility targeted towards a certain group of people and from there; the step towards hate crime is inevitable. Hate crimes are crimes typically involving violence that are motivated by prejudice on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, or other grounds.
“We pride ourselves as a nation of being tolerant and accepting of different races and nationalities, very much in harmony with our Christian beliefs. We must guard this tolerance fiercely.
“This point is particularly poignant given what is happening around the globe with the race issue.
“If we do not discourage racial biases and preconceptions, racism which translates into crime may very well become a real issue in Samoa and not one that only occurs elsewhere in the world.”